The Portrayal of Foreigners in Korean TV Programs
Department of Media Communication
The Graduate School
As the population of foreign residents in Korea continuously grows, more and more foreigners make their way into Korean television programs, including a variety of program genres. However, despite the continual expansion and diversification of television programs, their depiction of foreigners living in Korea is slow to follow behind. Rather, foreign residents have been represented as living in an alternate reality, being separated from the ordinary Korean society, creating a social distance between the foreign and the Korean population. Because media has a large influence on the constructed reality, such a portrayal strengthens existing stereotypes which might lead to a rationalization of the problems that are responsible for discriminating against foreign residents in Korea, including individual, institutional, and political prejudices and racism. The primary interest of the thesis is to explore how immigrants of different races and nationalities are depicted in human documentaries and if existing stereotypes are maintained or reinforced.
Taking a form of qualitative content analysis, the study focused on episodes from EBS1’s Global Family’s Life in Korea and KBS1’s My Neighbor, Charles. It was concluded that the representation of foreigners differs greatly depending on their race, with Caucasians being the ‘preferred ethnicity’ to watch, creating a positive image of their racial group, and other minorities, such as East and Central Asians giving the impression of living a difficult life, earning themselves empathetic feelings from the audience. The findings imply that there are specific situations and contexts in which the foreign residents are depicted that in turn confirm or enforce stereotypes and prejudices among Koreans.
Even though the government has made visible changes to support and encourage multiculturalism in Korea, the media has yet to take that step and there is a need for the media to concern itself with this matter and become aware how much influence it exhibits on its viewers in regard to multicultural issues.
Keywords: Stereotyping, racism, discrimination, interaction, representation, foreign residents, multicultural society, media exposure